Passenger lifts at Letchworth railway station open marking end of 14-year campaign
- Credit: Archant
The long wait for passenger lifts to open at Letchworth railway station is over with yesterday marking the end of a 14-year campaign.
After more than a decade of canvassing, work by Network Rail to install two new lifts at the First Capital Connect-owned station began last year and was expected to be completed in July, but the opening was delayed by two months after problems accessing the tracks.
Passenger operated lifts were installed in Stevenage in July, while more lifts were officially unveiled at a ceremony at Hitchin railway station on Friday.
But yesterday lift towers at Letchworth – joined to the footbridge to provide step-free access to both platforms – went into operation.
Letchworth and Baldock MP Sir Oliver Heald has been campaigning to have the lifts installed since 2000 alongside North Herts District Council.
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He said: “I am absolutely delighted that they are open. We are so lucky in Letchworth to have a railway station bang in the middle of the town based on the design of Ebeneezer Howard.
“I think there have been some technical problems, but the people at Network Rail have managed to overcome them. I know that many disabled people locally who have campaigned desperately for the opening of the lifts will be pleased with the news. There were people who were having to get a taxi to Stevenage when they wanted to visit there.
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“The opening has been delayed a number of times and there have been many slip-ups due to changes in ownership at the station, and changes in government. But I have kept pressing and it is a real relief that people with disabilities and those with buggies will be able to use the lifts.”
Helena Jidborg Alexander lives on Letchworth’s Grange estate with her two sons and works in the town for the Multiple Sclerosis Trust, which has backed the campaign.
She said: “It is brilliant news that the lifts are now open – although it has certainly been a long time coming.
“I am on maternity leave at the moment and one of my sons is nine months old. Therefore without step free access I rely on people helping me at the station. They have been helpful in fairness, but at busier times it is much harder to receive assistance.
“The fact that there have been no lifts at the station has definitely stopped me travelling by train over the years. I don’t drive so I’m relying on the buses. It has been a real hassle.
“I understand that it is an old station but it is 2014 now. However it is positive news that they are open – it’s fantastic.”
Speaking to the Comet, FCC managing director David Statham said: “We have made a lot of improvements to the train service which runs through Stevenage, Hitchin and Letchworth and it is something we are very proud of. We priorities our work from station to station and yes, there has been a delay in the opening on Letchworth and that has been because of a few issues that came up.”